Work Experience: Slave Labour or Vital Skills?

“Where’s that work experience girl? I need a cup of tea”.

Those are the words that haunt me as I stare at my laptop applying for some more work experience schemes to bulk up my CV. Unpaid of course.

See, I want to work in the media and well, it’s not an easy ride to say the least. Work experience is KEY to get me where I want, I have been told this a million times.

I am a full time waitress to pay the bills and as I stare at my 28495th page of why I am genuinely a hard-working, enthusiastic individual (no, I really am!), I think, why would I take 2 weeks off work to work, well, for free?! Can I even afford it? Probably not.

Luckily my mum and dad can support me here and there when and if these situations arise. But what about those people who aren’t in that position. Would you risk paying the rent for a placement that may, in fact lead to, nothing…?

And who are these people that can just work for free? How do they afford their milk and honey?

According to research by studentbeans.com, half of university students are willing to work for free to kick start their career and 40% said they would take a minimum wage position.

Take that stat and add it to the recent research done by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills who found that just 6% of employers are prepared to offer a young person their first job.

Now what hope do we have?

It seems to be a Catch-22 situation: No experience, no job. No job, no experience.

Work experience, like most things, has its good and bad points.

Regardless of the lack of wage, work experience can provide young adults with common sense and a hard-work ethic, which, if you turn on Jezza K every morning, get a job… no, only joking, but if you turn that on… you’ll see it is often lacking.

Most secondary schools make work experience compulsory and some offer a ‘take your child to work day’. Whether this is to scare the kids at school by proving it really is a breeze, or genuinely offering a new way of ‘real-life’ education, it is compulsory.

So why can’t the experience-workers get paid, even, a little, while they do it?

If students are willing to work for nothing, then why would an employer take on someone who wants paying?

Matthew Mawson, a 20 year old Law student has taken part in his fair share of work experience. He received his first part-time job through it and now as he lurches into the realms of adulthood, he is looking for experience as a lawyer…and doesn’t think it’s against the law to receive nothing but experience.

He said: “I don’t think employers should pay. Work experience benefits the student. They get an insight into their desired industry, make valuable connections and bulk up their CV.

Aside from a wage, it is still costly for employers to take on work experience students. They sacrifice their own money by disrupting the regular working schedule and provide a mentor or a supervisor to oversee their presence throughout the duration of their placement”.

@Kcommonsluvspie thinks work experience is 100% necessary: “Maybe it should be paid if it’s longer than a 2 week period, depending how good the candidate is”.

@luanne16 said: “It works well for short periods under 3 months longer than that is taking advantage. Work experience is an excellent way to learn”.

Like I said, I am a full-time waitress to pay the bills. I am a blogger and I am a researcher for an amazing production company. The latter is not paid. I often find myself working in my sleep. If I ever get stressed about the unpaid bits, I will say things like ‘why am I doing this; I’m not even getting paid’ but, I don’t care because one day I will be and the experience I am gaining really is priceless. I am currently working on a drama where I get to rub shoulders with some pretty fabulous actors whilst receiving an insight into the world of the CEO of the company. It’s amazing.

I think of it this way, two girls want one paid researcher job. Two CVs. One girl has work experience in researching, the other girl doesn’t.

Who would you give the job to?

Persevere kids. Persevere.

Follow me on Twitter @rosiehannahwww.twitter.com/rosiehannah :-)

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